I wrote this piece back in November but never managed to sell it to anyone. So I figured I'd give it away for free, right here, to you lucky people.
A VOTE IN FAVOR OF SHORTER ELECTIONS
There are two types of people in this country: Those who despise an election process that drags on for nearly two years, and those who merely hate it. But do the members of these diverse groups have valid reasons for their feelings? Does all this electioneering lead to sensory overload?
Let’s take a look back at the bid for the presidency. Barack Obama announced his candidacy a full twenty-one months before the election. John McCain followed suit three weeks later. Which meant we, the general public, were forced to begin thinking about all sorts of painful issues much earlier than was truly necessary. I, for one, resent the fact that precious media resources were devoted to topics such as the economy, health care, and the war on terrorism, rather than focusing on more relevant subjects, such as Clay Aiken’s sexual preference or the latest castoff from “Dancing With the Stars.”
Fortunately, the pundits—in an effort to keep our attention—had the good sense to dangle a few shiny objects in our field of vision, such as the cost of Governor Palin’s wardrobe, photos from her days as a beauty queen, and, in a surprising twist, a comprehensive etymological study of the phrase “hockey mom.”
But is this type of in-depth coverage more than the average American voter can withstand? To find out, I spoke to a man I’ll call “Joe the Figment.” The results of our conversation were revealing, to say the least.
Me: Mr. Figment, do you think today’s political campaigns are too long? Does the ceaseless barrage of rhetoric numb the average citizen to the point where he or she simply tunes out?
Joe the Figment: I like bean dip.
Me: Interesting. So is a two-year election cycle overkill or, to the contrary, does it give each of us ample time to thoroughly analyze the candidates’ views?
Joe the Figment: I wish I owned a pony.
Clearly, all of this campaigning is taking a toll. The question is, what can we do about it? In my view, one solution would involve a national “announce your candidacy” day, falling perhaps a month before the general election. Unfortunately, with the pesky First Amendment being what it is, there is no effective means by which to prevent a candidate from announcing his or her intentions early and beginning an oratorical assault on our senses.
That leaves only one viable option: Endeavor to make the campaigns, and the election itself, much more entertaining. To that end, I humbly submit the following trio of suggestions.
• Allow the debates to be judged by those renowned arbiters of talent, Simon, Paula, and Randy. The possibilities are intriguing. You could, for instance, require the candidates to perform an a capella arrangement of their foreign policy platform. “Nonsense,” you might say. “Musical ability has nothing to do with a candidate’s political prowess.” I say: Tell that to Bill Clinton and his saxophone.
• Stage a no-holds-barred cage match between vice presidential candidates. Talk about a crowd pleaser. And if you think Joe Biden would have had an unfair advantage over Sarah Palin in this arena, you are deluding yourself. Yes, Biden has years of cutthroat Senate experience on his side, but Palin’s survival instincts are as sharply honed as the hunting knife she used to dispatch a feral hog last spring.
• Haul out the polygraph machine. At every rally, campaign stop, stump speech, and town hall meeting, the candidates’ statements would be charted by a lie detector. Not only would this strategy reveal their true feelings on issues such as abortion, Social Security, and taxes, we would likely get a few chuckles from the reactions to such seemingly innocuous remarks as, “It’s great to be back in Des Moines.”
These are but a few examples of how we can make the election process more rewarding and less stressful for all of us. I urge you to take my words to heart.
By the way, I am running for county dogcatcher in 2010. I would appreciate your support.